Opinions invited: When it comes to Mk3 compared to Mk2, or Mk1, what are the makers playing at?

Hi, and thanks for stopping here. Re the post below, we’d really, really like to know what you think. Have you got time to leave a comment? Thank you.

Neil McCauley / HFA editor in chief

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Contributing editor (and latterly talent scout) and founder of Stereonow Ltd is a bit of a vintage gear enthusiasts. We were talking about his Meridian 105 power amps; late 1970s with flaking paint and so on. Still a terrific sound, even today. So, that sets the scene for the question.

Howard has series 200, series 500 and series 600 BS Meridian power amps in his ‘museum’ and from time to time rotates these to drive his Vandersteen 2CE signature speakers, JPW Minims and modern stuff too. He demonstrated to me a curious thing in that using the same signal source and preamp (an SAE 102) and taking extreme care to listen to the same track through the different power amps at precisely the same sound pressure level, then at typical domestic levels there was no discernable tonal difference; none at all!

What were the makers hoping to achieve for their end-users rather than for the ‘suits and corporate accountants?

Well, we’ll strip out consideration of reliability / unreliability, aesthetics and so on and continue to focus on the sonics. Howard and I struggled to understand what each successive series strove to offer in terms of sonic improvement.

Now then, yes of course the BS Meridian series 600 would ultimately play a bit louder than the series 200 – but surely that’s not the primary consideration is it?

So are we advocating a wholesale backwards migration to vintage equipment? No, of course not.

However for simplicity once again marginalizing considerations of ageing components, tired power supplies, deteriorating cosmetics, parts unavailability and so on, we here at OLC are increasingly convinced that discontinuing a series and replacing with another one rarely results in improved sonics in typical domestic situations. Here are a few examples that spring to mind:

  • Sonically, did Krell ever built a more musically engaging power amp than the KSA 80?
  • Did Spendor ever build a more musically satisfying (not for rock, obviously) speaker design than the SP1?
  • Sonically, did Meridian ever build a more compelling all-purpose power amp than their 107

In fairness though we need to cite contrary evidence

  • The LFD PA2M (SE) consistently improves on the previous PA2M and the original PA2.
  • The vintage Trio KT-917 is markedly more natural on (say) a live BBC Radio 3 concert than their preceding 600T but neither are as fine as their T2
  • The Michell Gyrodek provides more solid and articulate bass than the preceding Hydraulic Reference.

Epilogue:

If use own a Mk1 of anything and are curious about the Mk2, etc then irrespective of the inconvenience involved (it could save you a small fortune) compare the two at the same sound pressure level. Don’t leave it to chance, take a simple SPL meter to the demo, just in case the retailer doesn’t have one.